Change to travel time for mobile workers – what does it mean for transport and logistics companies?

Posted on: December 2nd, 2015

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has decided that the time spent by mobile workers travelling between their homes and the premises of their first and last customers is ‘working time’.

The case involved technicians who installed and maintained security equipment at customers’ premises in Spain. The employer, Tyco, calculated working time from the time the technician arrived at the first premises to when the technician left the last premises. Their first journey of the day from home and their last journey of the day back home were treated as a “rest period”.

‘Working time’ covers any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out their activity or duties. The ECJ made three key points:

  1. If a worker with no fixed place of work is carrying out their duties during a journey to or from a customer, the worker must be regarded as working during that journey. i.e. the travel was integral to these workers’ days.
  2. During this travel time the workers were at their employer’s disposal as they were unable to use the time freely or pursue their own interests during the travelling time.
  3. The workers were carrying out their activity or duties when travelling because the travel was needed in order to provide technical services to customers of the employer; i.e. they couldn’t do the work without the travel.

What is the impact of the decision and will it affect pay?

The decision only affects workers who are not assigned to a fixed or habitual place of work. For example, this will apply if you have drivers who do not have a ‘home office/depot’ or fixed starting point.

Travelling time at the beginning and end of the day must now be taken into account when determining:

  • Accrual of statutory holiday
  • Entitlement to rest breaks and rest periods
  • Whether a worker has exceeded the maximum working week of 48 hours (if they have not validly opted out)

It is likely that you are going to receive queries from workers in relation to the affect on their pay. At this stage, the case does not impact upon the calculation of the national minimum wage. There is therefore no impact on pay for now. It is likely, however, that this decision will ultimately lead to similar changes to the national minimum wage as a further case arguing that pay for workers on the national minimum wage should in turn be increased to include the ‘working time’ they spend on these journeys is expected. Prudent companies should therefore start to budget now for increased costs in the future.

Recommended actions for transport and logistics companies

Following this case we recommend you consider the following steps:

  • Be aware that workers may require additional rest breaks/periods
  • Workers’ pay may subsequently be increased to reflect this travelling time, which will therefore increase charge rates
  • Arrange appointments to minimise the impact of the case. For example, schedule the first and last appointment of a working day close to a worker’s home or where feasible, assign the worker a fixed base where they start and end their day
  • Establish monitoring procedures to ensure travelling time is recorded accurately and is not open to abuse by workers
  • Require workers to take the most direct route possible for all journeys, to limit the travelling time. For example, specify that particular routes or roads must be taken or avoided
  • Ensure that workers who may work over and above the maximum working week of 48 hours have validly opted out of this 48-hour maximum
  • Consider arrangements to cover extra rest breaks or rest periods